The French had learned from natives about a path from the lake down what is now Bayou Road across Esplanade ridge to the Mississippi River. When they decided to build a port settlement, this high ground passage beat out other sites for the new city. In March of 1718 workers directed by Jean Baptiste Bienville started clearing land to build a village named “Orleans”. What is now called the French Quarter was born.


The French entered into a treaty with the Chitimacha in 1718, but the need for forced labor continued. In 1719 they turned to African slavery, but they wanted slaves with very specific technological skills. Nearly all early Africans brought to French Louisiana came from Senegambia. The Senegambians (particularly the Bambara) were skilled in growing rice from swamps, processing indigo and tobacco, and lumbering.

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